Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Our Sawbill Sojourn
by cmarie

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 07/17/2017
Entry & Exit Point: Sawbill Lake (EP 38)
Number of Days: 4
Group Size: 6
Trip Introduction:
What better way to spend a family vacation than by forgetting the creature comforts of our 21st century world and surrendering ourselves to the joys and trials of the great outdoors? Six months of planning came together for six eager Slipkes to try their hands at Thoreauvian living in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Dad, Mom, Emma, Joey, Davy, and myself, the proud oldest sibling and official trip scribe: ready or not, here we went.
Day 1 of 4
Monday, July 17

We woke up with the sun this morning at 5:30 AM, bright, early, and completely unable to feel our noses. I half expected to peek out my tent and see our camp site at the outfitters covered in a white blanket of snow. I concede now that this may have been an overreaction, but at the time, 45 degrees Fahrenheit (with a chilling wind to match) felt alarmingly frosty considering we had been swimming in 90 degree sunshine just less than forty-eight hours ago. I'm not altogether sure Northern Minnesota's version of July qualifies as summer...

It took heavily clenched teeth and a serious amount of grit to climb out of our warm sleeping bags but we pulled through. Even Dad, who finds pure joy in "roughing it," admitted how often the cold woke him up that night. You can imagine, then, our surprise over breakfast when Joey - 13 years old and much akin to the age - told us, after finishing his third blueberry bagel, that he had gotten so hot and sweaty in the night that he had to take off his sweatshirt, long pants, and socks! I knew from then on who I was snuggling with at night.

We quickly packed all our gear along with our still-stiff bodies into the two canoes and we were off, into the most authentic "great unknown" we had ever experienced (excluding my BWCA-seasoned father who was thankfully running the show). We made a point to get on the water as early as possible in order to claim the coveted, 5-star campsite that we had been eyeing for months. On the way out, little Davy presented me with a hand-picked array of flowers - what a sweetheart.

Dawn's gentle light no doubt added an enchantment, but how beautiful it was that morning looking out on Sawbill lake. It was as if the trees had not yet awoken, and, like us, were timid of the cool, crisp air, wishing to stay in their warm and cozy state of rest as long as they could before stirring awake. All was achingly still as we paddled across the calm water toward our campsite.

As for the official rating, '5-star' was accurate! A web of exposed tree roots created a natural staircase leading uphill to our spacious home for the next 4 days. Setting up camp was easy and quick; dad thought of just about everything we could need to feel safe and comfortable.

The boys could think of nothing but walleye, smallmouths, and crawfish all trip long. Too bad the biggest catch of the day was a rock! However, Davy assured us it put up a good fight. I suspect my brothers have a sense of male duty to provide dinner for everyone and will stop at nothing to give us a feast of fish.

No luck! Still no fish to show that day as thunderstorms and heavy down pours had reached their 45-minute mark. I looked out the small opening of our tent and our site had evolved into one large rain puddle. The floor of our tent felt much like a waterbed and Emma was beginning to think we would never again see the sun. We soon discovered there was a leak in the tent and one of the sleeping bags had gotten fairly wet! We'll say it was Joey's - he probably would have been too warm to need it anyways.

4:00 PM and clear skies at last! Psalm 124 was the responsorial psalm for Mass that day and it could not have been more fitting. True torrents of rain had indeed come through our campsite, but our spirits were not to be crushed that easily. The boys were already back in the water fishing. I think they're beginning to feel a time crunch for dinner.

Quotes of the day:

"It is PERFECT weather for being cold!" - Davy

"It came down so friggin hard...was it fun?" - Dad

"Wet dirt really makes you appreciate dry dirt." - Emma